Whether a commercial landscape contractor’s ideal mower fleet consists of zero-turn, stand-on or walk-behind mowers, regular preventive maintenance measures are key to ensure the equipment runs properly throughout the cutting season.
Some suggested routine maintenance for a mower can vary depending on whether the equipment is powered by gasoline or an alternative fuel, like propane. Here are a few ways to keep your mower fleet operating efficiently this year.
Conduct a morning mower inspection
Regardless of the mower’s fuel type, mandating a visual two-minute inspection every morning before equipment leaves for the field is something all contractors should make a priority.
Make a checklist for the crew that directs them to do the following: check the oil level (including the hydraulic oil on ZTRs), clear debris from the engine’s cooling system, look for leaks under the mower that could have occurred during overnight storage, and inspect mower belts for wear and tear that could worsen during operation.
Protect the fuel
Protecting the fuel from contaminants is critical to brace against corrosion and ensure long engine life.
For operators of gasoline-fueled mowers, adding a fuel stabilizer is recommended to prevent engine damage. Gasoline contains corrosive metals and solvents found in the ethanol content of the fuel. These can corrode the engine’s carburetor if not properly cared for.
Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank each time fresh fuel is purchased. Fuel stabilizers contain metal deactivators that help combat corrosion and water-dispersion agents to prevent harmful water from separating from gasoline. They also prevent carbon build-up on valves.
Contractors operating propane mowers can skip adding a fuel stabilizer. Propane is a cleaner-burning fuel and doesn’t contain any ethanol, so there are no carbon deposits to worry about or other potentially corrosive particulates to contaminate the engine.
Change the oil
All mowers need regular oil changes. Operators should always follow the equipment manufacturer’s recommended guidelines. Many contractors using propane mowers have made the decision to run their equipment at longer intervals between oil changes compared to gasoline-fueled mowers. This should only be done after thorough testing and completing an analysis of the oil and its ability to properly lubricate engine internals. Propane burns cleaner than gasoline, leaving fewer contaminates behind to discolor the oil; however, the engine oil is still subjected to wear and should not be used past its thermal breakdown point. Using a high-quality oil, as specified by the mower or engine manufacturer, is recommended.
Lastly, an oil filter is an inexpensive component that should always be used to ensure the best engine performance.
Check the air filter
Engines need clean air to operate properly whether it’s operating on gasoline or propane. Depending on how dirty the environment is located where a mower is operating, the engine’s air filter should be replaced every 100 to 250 hours.
Before use each day, an operator should pull off the engine’s air cleaner cover on the engine and clean off grass clippings and thatch that has collected the previous day.